Mary Lyster

Bernadette Forde - first appeared in Out and About in Killererin 2000

Mary Lyster
Photo: Mary Lyster

Where it all began

It was by chance that I heard of the late Mary Lyster’s dancing career both as a competitor and teacher. When growing up, Mary was surrounded by Irish dancing, her two brothers were champion Irish dancers. They competed against the famous Irish dancer, Rory O’Connor and were winners on many occasions. Surrounded by dancing as she was, Mary couldn’t but be influenced by it and at the early age of seven pleaded with her mother to teach her the basic steps in the family home in Waterford.

From then on, there was no stopping her and she competed in Feiseanna (festivals) all over Ireland.

Miss Clooney’s wonderful exhibition

At Feis Carman, Ireland’s premier step-dancing festival of its day, Mary won the Open Championship – Senior cup. The following day tributes were paid to “Miss Clooney’s wonderful exhibition” in jig, reel and set-dance and also slip-jig and hornpipe. The adjudicator at the time was the wife of the secretary of the Irish dancing commission and she stated that Mary “could hardly be excelled as far as Irish step-dancing was concerned.”

Keeping step-dancing tradition alive

Mary was encouraged by these tributes and subsequently by the Irish Independent who stated that “a talented young Waterford lady (aptly described as the champion of champions) is responsible for keeping the tradition of Irish step-dancing well to the fore in the Co. Waterford Gaeltacht town of Dungarvan.

Cups and medals galore

In total she won 116 Cups and 47 medals. Among them were the Sean Goulding Cup (1945); Waterford Cup (1946, 1951 and 1952); Cork “Nation ” Cup and Gold Medal (All Ireland in 1948); Kilkenny Cup (1949, 1951 an 1953.

The love of her life

Mary ended up in Barnaderg when she met and married a Garda (Martin) who was from Barnaderg but working in Waterford at the time. They had a son and daughter Michael and Anne (Michael was a presenter for many years of the RTE programme “The Sunday Game”).

This page was added on 31/01/2024.

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